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Pakistan: WAF Demands a Reconstituted National Commission for Minorities - 11 May 2020

12 May 2020

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WAF (Karachi)

May 11, 2020: WAF (Karachi) rejects the willful and arbitrary process by which the Cabinet has formed the National Commission for Minorities (NCM). Such unilateral decisions undermine parliamentary process and weaken democratic consensus without serving the purpose of protecting minorities. By ignoring and sidelining the recommendations of the Suddle Commission - a body mandated in the landmark and progressive judgement by Justice Tassaduq Jillani (2014) - the government reveals its contempt for court decisions and disinclination towards a fair and inclusive process and indeed, adhering to the Paris Principles (1992) as noted in the Jillani judgement.

All this has been made worse by some PTI leaders who have lately been spouting hateful narratives against some religious communities in mainstream media. Such dangerous games of identity politics are what encourage extremism in Pakistan and have led to mass-murderous results. The PTI leadership must hold its members to account for their repeated bullying and malafide statements that make minorities even more vulnerable than they already are.

Other than the high-handed process, the Women’s Action Forum feels it is a travesty that nearly half the members of this Commission for Minorities comprises of members from the majoritarian Muslim community! The commission must clearly and predominantly comprise of members representing declared and undeclared religious minorities. There is absolutely no justification for including the Chairperson of the Council of Islamic Ideology. Instead, the lapsed positions for chairpersons of the National Commissions on Human Rights and Status of Women should be immediately appointed and they may be
members of the Commission on Minorities. Further, the line ministry for this commission must be the Ministry of Human Rights and not, Religious Affairs. The selected members must be cross-party representatives rather than just from the ruling party.

WAF concurs with other human rights groups and Parliamentarians who have also expressed their strong reservations on the formation of the NCM. By functioning merely as a department beholden to the government, with over-representation of the majoritarian community, it will fail abysmally in protecting or advocating the rights of minorities. WAF fears that the present National Commission for Minorities lacks power, resources or autonomy; it will be unable to safeguard or protect the rights of minorities, which have already been trampled on in these last few decades.

A new Commission must be formed as a statutory body and in light of the inclusive recommendations prepared by the Suddle Commission with a wide range of minorities’ representation. The newly formulated commission must be passed by Parliament after consensus so that fairness and ownership is ensured.

Women’s Action Forum - Karachi